Under the Radar

Sound Off: Should the VA Change Its Motto?


Inscribed on a plaque, right by the entrance to the Department of Veterans Affairs, is the VA's motto: "To care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan."

That's a direct quote from the man many consider to be our greatest president, taken from his second inaugural address in 1865 as the war was winding down and the nation had to deal with the destruction after its bloodiest conflict.

Of course, women didn't serve in the military in 1865. Or, more accurately, women's military service wasn't recognized as military service back then, so Lincoln's declaration is a fair representation of his times.

By 1959, when the VA adopted his statement as its motto, things were most definitely changing. Women had made a critical contribution to the victory in World War II and were actively serving in the United States military.

The Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) have launched a campaign to get that motto changed on the grounds that the motto is "gendered and fails to recognize the sacrifice and service of the over 2 million women veterans and their survivors, relegating them to the fringes of the veteran community."

As part of IAVA's She Who Borne the Battle campaign, they have delivered a "petition for rulemaking" requesting the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to replace its current outdated and exclusionary motto with one that is inclusive of women.

They've been joined by Yale Law School's Veterans Legal Services Clinic, the Service Women's Action Network (SWAN), and the New York City Veterans Alliance .

What do you think? Should the VA adopt a new motto that represents all veterans? Should we honor the words of Lincoln and leave it alone?

Or should we alter Lincoln's quote to make it more gender neutral? (To care for them who shall have borne the battle, and for their spouse, and their orphan?)

As anyone who flies the flag on their front porch knows, symbols matter. Does this one need to be changed?

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